Falling in Love with the Wrong Salesperson

“During the interview with this candidate, his previous sales experience showed achievement and even some awards in (company name omitted) belonging to another industry and I instantly fell in love with him. But how come after several months he has still failed to close a deal with any company assigned to him?” Jenny– Sales Manager

First of all, I would conservatively assume that what you meant with “fell in love with him” was that you hired him and not quite in a literal sense! The romantic angle does seem intriguing to ponder on as it is Cupid’s month. Nevertheless, allow me to tackle the less complicated matter of mere hiring.  If I happen to be mistaken, you can shoot me a subsequent email and I would be delighted to discuss the nuances of office romance in an appropriate forum.


Many sales candidates, particularly the extrovert ones with bolstered confidence anchored on experience can be quite seductive. Compound that with matching interaction styles between the candidate and the interviewer and a light in the assessor’s brain gets switched on. Consequently, the candidate accelerates ahead of the competitive pack.  Awards and achievements likewise jump out of the CV, provides rationalization for the choice…and then BAM! The candidate gets the congratulatory handshake! Unbeknownst to either party, advanced divorce papers may have just been signed!


The honeymoon length varies based on sales type. Such can be business-to-business user, business-to-reseller, key account management, distribution selling, consumer direct with variants in approaches, such as digital, telemarketing or face-to-face methods and then there is retail assisted buying and several other hybrids.  Sales missions such as absolute new acquisition, competitive switching, recovery, and incumbency defence with repeat business generation also impact the length of the adjustment period needed. In addition, the market novelty to maturity of the product or service, intensity of competition, category tempo and own-company’s velocity collectively contribute to the length of the new salesperson’s learning phase. Candidate sales experience only beneficially shortens the adjustment process if the post being assumed strongly resembles qualities of his or her past ones.  Ironically, veteran salespeople bent on importing everything from past experiences, despite facing a different sales type and mission, are known to fail miserably. Then divorce! Some reporting to sales managers who are clueless as to why this phenomenon is taking place or are merely lackadaisical, simply allow failing salespersons to linger, in the hope that their abysmal performances would someday pick-up owing to some meta-physical event! Sadly, either case shatters the salespersons’ self-confidence with the exception of those possessing a strong sense of self-worth, who will rationalize their failure as the company’s fault instead! Some leave it at that while others bad-mouth the institution they parted with to preserve their self-image.


In the search for a romantic partner, it is imperative that beyond the heart’s pounding and prodding, prior to business wedlock, there has to be compatibility assessment. That is the very purpose of the selection process. Unfortunately, if the company lacks reliable assessment tools and managers conducting the candidate assessment have inadequate interviewing skills, the possibility of hiring the wrong candidate constantly looms above like future, violent, romance-degrading disagreements!  So what are critical to discover before hiring the sales candidate? Primarily, how matched is the candidate with the sales type and mission to be carried out?  Ideally, a perfect fit earns a wedding ring. However, near matches can be assessed further in terms of the candidate’s capability and willingness to unlearn and learn selling methods dovetailed for the sales type and mission. Such versatility even from candidates with non-close matches, still prove worthy of conscious review and validation. In other words, the candidate’s willingness and aptitude towards learning and embracing sales type and mission-appropriate methods is a strong factor in predicting success. Notably, the sales candidate’s superior should start planning developmental interventions to ensure the blind spots can be feasibly covered within the allotted time, to augment what are needed to reach if not surpass performance expectations.

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About the author

Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Rowen, a veteran of Training, Coaching and Consulting is the pioneering developer of many original frameworks and tools in sales management, selling mechanics, strategic account development, retail sales optimization, tactical and strategic negotiation, and many more valuable contributions to the science of business. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to info@mansmith.net.

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